Thursday, January 25, 2007

The List - Picture Books

Originally posted at Twice Bloomed Wisteria, my other site.

As promised, here is THE LIST! This task was more difficult than I imagined. I could name a few from memory, then I went to the children's bookcases. Each asked what I was doing and I told them I wanted to make a list of our absolute must have picture books. At this point, they both started screaming favorites and pulling them off the shelf. We eventually chose books that had been read until the pages acquired that old book feeling or the covers were taped. After the list was finished, I realized that there were still treasured books that were not represented. These are in a random order.
Miss Suzy
Miriam Young
Arnold Loebel
Great story and pictures. This is one from my childhood. I always enjoyed the good winning over menacing.
Diane Cannon

You have beautiful nature pictures, a story about growing older while retaining your inner youth, and the "perfect figure eight." What more could you need?
Miss Twiggley's Tree
Dorothea Warren Fox

A wonderful story about a woman who eschewed typical society coming to the aid of the the town that snubbed her. I love the idea of tree houses if you haven't noticed.
The Complete Curious George
Margaret and H.A. Rey

My mother gave this volume to me, because I loved Curious George when I was young. We have read the cover off this book.
Leo Lionni

Validation of the poet, not to mention cute little mice.
Over on the Farm
Christopher Gunson

I'm not usually much on counting books, but my sister gave my son this book when he was very young and the pages have been worn to that wonderful patina because the pictures and words are wonderfully happy.
The Raft
Jim LaMarche

Wonderful paintings and wonderful story about a boy interacting with nature on a raft.
Mike Mulligan
Virginia Lee Burton

Love the tale of problem solving.
The Quiltmaker's Gift
Jeff Brumbeau
Gail De Marcken
Beautiful quilt pictures and a magical story about giving.
Don and Audrey Wood

The drawings of the fingers with their piggy personalities are priceless.
Toot and Puddle
Holly Hobbie

Mud Season
The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear
Don and Audrey Wood

The drawings and the power of invention.
The Runaway Bunny
Margaret Wise Brown

The power of a mother's love
Where the Wild Things Are
Maurice Sendak

The pictures and the reality of the tantrum
The Little Engine That Could
Watty Piper

New Shoes, Red Shoes
Susan Rollings

Bright, happy shoe images that my daughter could not resist
My Many Colored Days
Dr. Suess

Color and the reality that not all days are
The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter

Who can live without Peter and Jeremy Fisher
The Lorax
Dr. Suess

It's never too early to start teaching about environmental stress.
Peach and Blue
Sarah Kilborne

Wonderful story of how someone else's view can improve our own.
Douglas Florian

Interesting pictures and cute insect poems
The Foot Book
Dr. Suess

I know this one by heart because I read it over and over and over and over
No Matter What
Debi Glori

Again, a mother's love overcomes a bad day. "Do you still love me; Do you still care?" Of course, I do.
Something From Nothing
Phoebe Gilman

Beautiful pictures and story. The mice images on the bottom of each page are wonderful.
In a Small, Small Pond
Denise Fleming

Bright, interesting pictures and happy words and pond life.
The Classic Tales of Brer Rabbit
Joel Chandler Harris
Dan Daily
Trickster tales, especially Tar Baby
Aesop's Fables

Jerry Pinkney
Great pictures and classic tales

What have I forgotten? Here's Becky's list. Zilla's list is in the comments section of the last post. Where's your list?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Papyrus Paper

Remember my weekend post about the benefits of a cluttered office or home. Manufacturing of papyrus paper has been one of the causes of the clutter, recently. We have made recycled paper on several occasions and when I saw these kits in the Rainbow Resource catalog, I thought it would be a fun, though not taxing, addition to our Ancient Egypt study. In reality we have had papyrus pulp soaking in the kitchen for a couple of weeks. We didn't just have one container either; we had two so each child could have his own project.

Making papyrus paper goes something like this.
  • They soak the pulp while sloshing sticky papyrus water all over the counters while they are watching the progress,
  • They roll with my nice rolling pin while I wonder whether the rolling pin will be fit for pastry after its tour of paper making with my over zealous children
  • They slosh water all over the floor as they transport old water to the sink and refill for the next round of soaking,
  • They soak for another 3 days while asking me, "Is it ready yet?"
  • They roll the papyrus pulp more vigorously this round, splashing water all over the kitchen as the rolling pin presses absorbed water out of the papyrus,
  • They slosh water out of the trays onto the floor as they get fresh water,
  • They soak, again,
  • Then, using about 10 dish cloths per child they lay out the fibers in a criss cross pattern overlapping each piece, press the papyrus between 2 dish cloths until all moisture is absorbed using my nice rolling pin, and flatten the "paper" as much as possible,
  • Then they transfer "paper" to some newspaper sections and weight it with stacks of books which I had in abundance since I didn't "organize and clean" this weekend. They didn't even have to leave the kitchen to gather enough weight
  • Finally, they continue to switch out the newspaper until the "paper" is dry and paper like.
Unfortunately, our "paper" is not paperish, even with all the waiting, rolling, soaking, rolling, and flattening. A sample paper came with our kit and it looks like silk dupioni while ours looks like burlap. I suppose we should have soaked and rolled more, but I don't think I could have handled the accident waiting to happen trays lurking in my kitchen any longer.

See what wonderful things can happen if you are open to a bit of clutter.

Next, we will experiment with smut ink and hieroglyphics. I hope the paper is usable.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

A Broader View

Originally posted at Twice Bloomed Wisteria, my other site.

As I teach my children at home using materials that are essentially derived from a classical approach to education, I find that I must be ever vigilant that our readings don't narrow our perspective rather than broaden it. With traditional suggested readings for our grade levels, the world view is presented in a typically Euro-male perspective. I have chosen to use classic books in our homeschool because I want to give my children the information they need to make connections, see allusions, and join the Great Conversation. As much as I believe in the importance of the Classics, I know that we cannot stop there. Our world is smaller because of technology and mobility. We need to know the other stories, as well as our own, to interact productively in the world.

Let me give you an example. The first day of my first year of teaching (outside the home) I walked into a classroom and looked around and saw twenty five students, no two of which had a similar skin tone. I asked the first question that came to my mind, "How many of you speak another language other than English at home?" Twenty of the twenty five students raised their hands. There were eighteen different first languages in that class and so began my education. Struggling with ESL issues in writing was the more manageable problem that year. The larger problems arose from dealing with assumptions we all make based on our traditions, views of history, religion, and other prior knowledge.

I found that you could not assume that history is perceived in a chronological way with important dates marking the way. I found that courtesy in discussion could be enforced but ingrained hatred - hatred of which I have no experience does exist and is taught from birth - cannot be overcome in a semester. I found that I could not expect girls from some cultures to take a stand against a man even if it was just in a class and just about literature. The reality of leading a class of so diverse a population was that I could assume nothing and I had a lot to learn. I never had another class that culturally diverse, but the lessons I learned that year and in subsequent years have never left me. The literature, history, theology, and anthropology I studied to bring understanding is not necessarily appropriate for young children, but I do attempt to add culturally diverse reality to our classical home studies with other resources.

Jokes run rampant about the attempts of government, schools, and individuals to become "Politically Correct." Political correctness is not what I wish to teach my children. What I seek to do is to show my children that what we believe to be written in stone based on our traditions is water writing in other cultures. I want to teach true respect for individuals. Teaching true respect comes from modeling the behavior yourself, but I also find it helpful to introduce literature, art, cultural study, and religion of different peoples without reducing the studies to stereotypes.

Here are a few suggestions:
  • Geographical study - By knowing the terrain, political boundaries, and seasons much can be understood about the development of cultures. If flood and drought periods dictate the lives of a people, then culture and religion will be established based on the cyclical nature of their lives. If mountains, swamps, or deserts isolate a group for long periods of time, those cultures will have developed based on those restrictions. Geography is essential to understanding.
  • Religion - Religion, in many ways, defines a culture and the actions of the peoples. By studying world religions we can gain a greater understanding and respect for the people practicing those religions. We have used The Usbourne Book of World Religions for a base study and have enjoyed the concise explanations of the basics of the six major religions. Mentions of subgroups are included, but defining differences are not necessarily given. This book is a good starting place and enough information for young children.
  • Literature - I believe that much can be learned about people through reading literature. In fiction you get insight into daily routines, religious practice, and social traditions that is more informative than fact lists because you are privy to the emotion and the conflict. Finding appropriate material for young children is not difficult.

    If you are reading about India do a library search for that area and narrow the search by eliminating adult material and non fiction. I prefer stories written by a member of the cultural group that have been translated or folk tales that may have several versions.
    • In a Circle Long Ago by Nancy Van Laan is a compilation of Native American Lore.
    • Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth by Anne Rockwell is a picture book that combines the reality of African American Art and the story of Sojourner Truth.
    • Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji is a pigeon story but also a story that gives great insight into the life of a boy in India.
    • The Cinderella stories - Variations of the Cinderella stories have amused and challenged my children. We have read ten or more. Side by side comparisons are wonderful for highlighting differences. There are several Internet sites with information on Cinderella story variations. I think this one is the most straightforward and informative.
    • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a wonderful verbal picture of Mexican American life. Be forewarned, while the reading level and vignette format makes the book accessible for younger readers some of the content is more adult. Pick and choose stories.
    • Poetry - is a great way to introduce varying cultures. Think of the power of Langston Hughes poetry and the stark beauty and sparseness of haiku and other Japanese poetry.
    • The Asante and Native American Trickster Tales in which animals teach the lessons that are important to be passed along.

  • Art - Looking at the art of various cultures can illustrate the stories without words, what materials are available, and which things are sacred or of high importance. The quilts of Faith Ringgold, Choctaw baskets and needlework, Guatemalan textiles, origami, African drums, masks, and Kente cloth, Inuit carving, and Japanese gardens are just a few.
  • Music - Listening to and appreciating music of various cultures can be more challenging because of language barriers, but experiencing the tabla of India, the various African drums, the Latin rhythms, and the energy of the polka can open communication.

While true respect for individuals and their beliefs can never be taught in school, an understanding of those beliefs, an appreciation of the contributions of the various peoples, and an insight into the realities of other cultures, which don't include stereotypes, can only serve to open a dialog between peoples that will lead to greater understanding and acceptance of the differences and similarities of people in our multi-cultural world.